April 20, 2018

Legionnaires' disease outbreak at Disneyland sickens nine visitors

11 November 2017, 11:26 | Winifred Adams

Disneyland Shuts Down Two Cooling Towers After Visitors Sickened With Legionnaires' Disease

JAN. 22 2015 FILE

Officials at Disneyland have shut down two cooling towers that were found to have high levels of Legionella bacteria, which causes Legionnaires' disease.

The nine Disneyland cases are among 12 total cases that the Orange County Health Care Agency is investigating regarding people who live in or visited Anaheim in September.

The 12 victims ranged from 52 to 94 years old.

One person, who had not visited Disneyland, has died of the disease, the OC Register reported, citing officials. They report having performed subsequent testing and disinfection and brought the towers back into service November 5, 2017. A Disneyland employee is among those who got sick.

Those most at risk of getting sick from Legionella infection include people who are smokers, have chronic lung disease or weak immune systems, and people over the age of 65. Two cooling towers that were in an area inaccessible to guests have since been disinfected and shut down until health officials can certify them as disinfected.

The health agency told The AP that no new cases have been reported.

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Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Chief Medical Officer Pamela Hymel said Disney conducted more tests on all of their water towers.

Legionellosis refers to illness caused by Legionella bacteria and usually results from exposure to contaminated water aerosols or from aspirating contaminated water.

The county health agency alerted health care providers to keep an eye on anyone who visited Anaheim or Disneyland and contracted Legionnaires' disease before November 7. The county contacted Disney after it discovered several had gone to the park.

"There is no known ongoing risk associated with this outbreak", the agency said in a statement. The incubation period is two to 10 days before symptoms appear, after exposure to the bacteria. Outbreaks are often traced to hot tubs, decorative fountains, cooling towers and large air-conditioning systems that emit water vapor into the air. It is not contagious from person to person.

Ten of the 12 people who became ill were hospitalized. While many people have no symptoms, it can cause serious pneumonia and prove unsafe to those with lung or immune system problems. A similar upward trend has been seen nationally and elsewhere in Southern California, according to the health care agency, though what's causing that is unclear.

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